Hot on the heels of reports earlier this week that Ethiopia had banned Skype and other voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, the government has moved to refute such claims. AllAfrica.com cites Ethiopian government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal as clarifying that a draft proclamation presented to parliament does not, in fact, restrict users’ access to internet telephony, but instead is designed to control the growing number of telecom related offences. ‘The draft law aims to restrict internet telephone activities, not between telecom activities from computer to computer, but it aims to restrict unlicensed service providers who use internet to provide telephone services from internet to telephone lines. The aim of the regulation is not aimed at restricting IP and cyber activities. Nor did it intend to restrict computer to computer services,’ Kemal was reported as saying. With state-owned fixed line incumbent Ethio Telecom having accused a number of internet service providers (ISPs) of allowing unlawful international calls in order to gain illegal revenue, it has been suggested that the new legislation is primarily aimed at tackling such illegal activities, amid claims that such unlawful services have cost the country more than USD50 million. The Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO), meanwhile, also stressed in a statement that the draft law does not target personal users of VoIP services, with Mr Kemal adding: ‘There is no prohibition of people calling abroad on Skype from internet cafes or elsewhere.’
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